Family Friday. We Move to A New Town


Brendan and I moved back to Ballynahinch, Co Down where I was born.  Nine children moved with us.  Four other children were at university.  One was married.  Friends were perplexed at us moving away from Coleraine with your big family.  “How were we going to manage?” they asked.  “You will never get good schools like here.  Where will you live? Your children will miss their friends.”

I had been praying for five years that God would provide a bigger home for us.  I knew these young children would turn into teenagers and would need more space.  I believed that God would provide for me.  He gave me my children, and I believed he would help me.  When the children of Israel went into the promised land they were given land according to the size of their tribe.  I had a big family and I hoped that God who helped the children of Israel would do the same for me.

You must distribute the land among the clans by sacred lot and in proportion to their size. A larger portion of land will be allotted to each of the larger clans, and a smaller portion will be allotted to each of the smaller clans. The decision of the sacred lot is final.  (‭Numbers‬ ‭33‬:‭54‬ NLT)

We moved to a modern, warm bungalow.  There was plenty of room for us all.  My son John loved his new home and town.  He made friends easily at his new school.  He loved getting outdoors.  He would spend a Saturday with his new friends walking along the river behind our house or wandering over fields and forests beyond.  There was a corn mill nearby that was still working.  The boys went down there and looked at the large wheel turning with the water flowing over it.  I remember going there when I was a child with my father.  He was getting bags of corn bruised into oats.  The river behind our house fed the wheel that turned the grinding stone in the mill.

John’s adventures reminded me of Robert Louis Stevenson’ poem,

Keepsake Mill.

Over the borders, a sin without pardon,
Breaking the branches and crawling below,
Out through the breach in the wall of the garden,
Down by the banks of the river, we go.

Here is the mill with the humming of thunder,
Here is the weir with the wonder of foam,
Here is the sluice with the race running under
Marvellous places, though handy to home!

He would head off down the back of our garden, through a hole in the hedge to meet his friends.  They went fishing and swimming in the river behind the garden.  He would not return till late.

John started a new school, and travelled nine miles by bus to it.  His older sister went to the same school.  Settling into a new area and a new school can be daunting for any child.  John looked on his experience as an adventure and was enjoying a whole new world, new countryside, meeting my extended family, and making new friends.  He never looked back.

I later found out that our new neighbours’ son was bullied on the bus and at the school John went to.  He left and went to another school.  My daughter and son did not face any trouble on the bus or at school.  Because they had each other, no one dared pick on John because his big sister would soon respond and not take any hastle.  She was used to dealing with her siblings.  On any bus full of teenagers there will always be banter.  John and his sister took it all in their stride and didn’t make any enemies.

We all had a family holiday to Spain in the year 2000.  On the flight over to Spain John met a girl who went to his old school.  She was telling him that many of the children in his old class were using drugs.  I was so glad we moved when we did.  It was good for my daughter as well.  She was getting to the age where she was being influenced by friends to rebel.  She was made head girl in her new school.  Both my children found favour when they moved to a new town and new school.  I knew God was with us and he would look after us just as this scripture says.

And you saw how the LORD your God cared for you all along the way as you traveled through the wilderness, just as a father cares for his child.  Now he has brought you to this place.’ (‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭1‬:‭31‬ NLT)

Testimony Tuesday. Enduring When Suffering many Trials

It was my grand daughter Eilish’s birthday on the thirteenth of March.  She was five years old.  She is an inquisitive little girl.  She asked me “Why is your hair white?  It is dark in the photographs.”  She lives in Slovakia and calls our home “The Irish House”.
I remember well the day she was born.

I had just come back from visiting one of our sons in hospital in Glasgow.  He had contacted a infection while playing football.  He grazed his shin and thought nothing of it.   But he developed a fever and was rushed to hospital and needed intensive care to combat an infection he had.  I flew over to see him.  I wanted to pray for him for God to heal him.
When I visited him he was quite happy and oblivious to any danger he may have been in.  Some friends, the Bowers, let me stay with them and they encouraged and prayed with me for my son.

When I got back to Belfast I stopped off at my daughter’s home for a cup of coffee and let her know how my trip had been.  She shared with me a dream she had the previous night.  She dreamt I had died.  She was upset and I reassured her I was okay.  But I wasn’t okay.  I was bleeding and I was getting worse.  My son being sick upset me as well.

Then the phone rang.  It was another son to tell me his wife had started in labour and was on her way to the hospital.   We prayed for a safe delivery for mum and baby.  We got news later that the new mum was rushed into theatre when she arrived at the hospital and had a Caesarian Section to deliver the baby.  Something serious had gone wrong and mother and baby’s life were in danger.  But Praise to God he preserved their lives.  They were traumatised but mum and baby were alive.

I began to realise we were under attack from our enemy Satan.  He was trying to take my son’s life, my daughter in law’s and my grandchild’s life and I wasn’t feeling too well myself.  But he didn’t succeed.  Six weeks later I was diagnosed with cancer.  More suffering.  How much more could I endure?  I was weak and feeling hopeless.  I couldn’t fight any longer.  It is when we are helpless God moves.

We came through many trials in the springtime of 2010.

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while. These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.”

People often ask why they have to suffer.  Will we just believe in God when times are good, when he is blessing us?   Going through trials makes our faith strong.  When we see Jesus, who went through horrible suffering when he was whipped, pierced, bruised, and crucified for us, it will give us courage to continue to believe and hope in his help to bring us through our suffering and heal us on the other side.

“So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. (‭1 Peter‬ ‭1‬:‭6-7‬ NLT)

God preserved my life and my children’s life from death.   I am able to say God is good and merciful.  He is faithful to care for us as we obey him.  I have joy instead of sorrow and crying.  I now don’t look at the suffering but I hope in the joy after we suffer a little while, until God brings the answers to our prayers.

Psalm 91 says God will be with us in trouble and deliver us out of it.

Are you going through pain or despair at the moment? Are you hoping for God’s promise to you being fulfilled and it looks impossible for that promise to come about. Be patient in your trials. Your faith is being tested. Will you still believe God or give up and doubt and have unbelief?  He will give you strength to go through and come through to the other side. May your hope in God’s help be renewed.

Marvelous Monday, Signs and Wonders this past Week for the Irish

What an exciting and extraordinary week we have had here in Ireland.  We are a small island off the coast of Europe with approximately five million people.  Yet there are about sixty million diaspora throughout the world.  On St Patrick’s day throughout the world everyone wimageho has Irish roots celebrates.  It is the second most celebrated day in the world after Christmas Day.

Here is a photograph of Ireland taken from the International Space Station by astronaut  Terry Virts and tweeted on St Patrick’s Day.  Thank you.  It is wonderful to see our island from high above the Earth without clouds.  The sun was shining on us.

On St Patrick’s day there was celebrations and parades in Dublin and Downpatrick.  Other nations acknowledged Ireland by lighting up certain monuments in green.  Five years ago, the Sydney Opera House was the first global location to go green.

But this year, From the London Eye and Edinburgh Castle to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, global landmarks went green on St Patrick’s night.  More than 150 iconic landmarks in mainland Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand, as well as China, South Korea, India, Brazil and South Afriimageca were floodlit with green light in honour of St Patrick’s day.

The Minister for Tourism for Sourthern Ireland, Paschal Donohoe, said: “The fact that 160 buildings have opted to go green to celebrate St Patrick’s Day this year brings an enormous sense of pride to our people at home and across the world.

“Being able to put ourselves front and centre on the world stage in this way reaps unrivalled dividends in terms ofimage publicity, promoting Ireland and getting the message out about our recovery and the progress we are making.”

To crown a wonderful day of lights there was a display of the Aurore Borealis, vibrant shades of purple and green illuminating the skies over Ireland.  Normally areas closer to the North Pole see this phenomenon.  This display of lights was not man made.   I believe God added his display of glory to end the day.  Behold the Glory of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.  Photo taken by photographer over Slemish.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (‭Psalm‬ ‭19‬:‭1‬ NIV)

God is described as the Father of Lights.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.  (‭James‬ ‭1‬:‭17‬ NIV)

On Friday morning I was working in the kitchen.  I noticed it was getting very dark outside.  I looked out and saw a dark cloud overhead coming from the east.  I thought to myself , “It must be going to rain”.  Dark clouds are not unusual in Northern Ireland.  During the thirty years of troubles every day seemed to be dark and grey.  I later found out that morning there was an eclipse of the sun where the moon covered over part of the sun.  Here is a picture showing the moon partially covering the sun.  This event seldom happens.  Photograph taken by photographer in Donaghadee, Co Down.

Jesus said “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. (‭Luke‬ ‭21‬:‭25‬ NIV)

On  Saturday many Irish people were glued to their TVs  waiting for the outcome of the Six Nations Rugby Competion.  Eventually Ireland knew they were the winners after England failed to get enough points.  More joyous celebrations.  On Sunday the Irish Women’s Rugby team became champions as well.  A great end to special blessed week for the Irish.


photos shared from Images of the Solar Eclipse.



Family Friday. We Needed a Van for our Big Family

Brendan and I were having coffee in a country farm house built in 1871 outside Vancouver, Canada.  We were having a late St Valentine’s treat.  It had a wooden veranda the kind you see in cowboy movies.  There was a big chestnut tree in the garden and underneath was a long wooden carriage.  We were enjoying the first of the spring sunshine sitting outside on the veranda, just as the original family would had done all those years ago.

I noticed a photo of the family who lived here on the wall inside.  There was a note below telling us the history.  A family with twelve children lived here.

The carriage has sat dormant through the years of change.  Modern city dwellings are all around this old house.  Modern four by fours speed past on the highway nearby.  The city has overtaken the country.  I imagined the family of the house going into town or going to church in that old vehicle.  It would have been their version of a four by four one hundred years ago.

As our family grew so did the size of our vehicles.   When Brendan and I had two children we lived in town and didn’t need a car.   We travelled by bus or train. The only four by four I had then was a pram.  We had a big Pedigree pram.  There was space to put the groceries underneath and two children sleeping, head to toe.  We had bicycles for each of us and the two children.  Then our family became six.  We had a child seat on each of the adult bicycles.  We went for bike rides along the river, where we lived.  Two more children arrived.  There was no time for bike rides.

Brendan invested in his first car.  It was a white Hillman Hunter.  We called it Nimrod.  That is the name of a character in the bible.  He was a mighty hunter.  Our children were very happy with the up grade.  We felt so proud of ourselves with our first car.  Back then wearing seat belts was not necessary.  My six children packed into the back seats.  We didn’t have to use a baby seat either.  One of the older children nursed the youngest child.

Brendan had the opportunity to buy a Peugeot 505.  It had three rows of seats with space for seven children.  Number seven child arrived soon after to fill the extra space.  I remember going on holiday with the Peugeot packed to the gills with children and goods.  We thought we would be pulled in by the Garda as we crossed the border to the south of Ireland for being overloaded.  Some of the children hid as we crossed.  What a relief we weren’t stopped.

When number eight child arrived Brendan bought a Volkwagon van.  We took out a loan to buy it.  Our young children became teenagers and needed more space.  We needed  a van.  Also seat belts for passengers became the law.  It was our biggest outlay.  I learned to drive in our new vehicle.  I often took my children and their friends to the park and to the beach after school.  It is surprising that not many children from the town get to go on holiday or go to the beach.

Unfortunately the power steering went on our beloved van.  It was going to cost too much to repair.  A friend bought it, but we still had to pay off the loan.  We learned from the pain of losing our Volkwagon.  Any vehicle we bought after that was older and we paid for it in cash.  We would pray and ask God to guide us.  One Ford van was an ex Police van.  It had special protection underneath, so a bomb would not attach itself.  That van lasted a long time.  Another van had been used as a school bus and was in pristeen condition.

And so on it went.  After the Volkwagon we got a Ford van which can carry fifteen people.  We have our seventh Ford van at the moment.  Even though our children have  left home we still have a Ford van.  The good thing about the Ford model is that the seats can be removed.  We use it to help people move house, move furniture, take lawn mowers to get fixed, collect fire logs, take the dog for a walk and trips when my grandchildren come to visit.

A friend of my daughter called us the “Minibus” family.  She envied us going off on holiday with everything but the kitchen sink packed.  So we progressed over the years from having a pram to having a minibus.  I think we will continue to have a van even though we are pensioners.  We will remain “The Minibus Family.”

I said to Brendan,  “That would have been the family van back in the nineteen hundreds”.  We finished our coffee.

Celebrating St Patrick along the Ancient Pathway

I returned to Co Down sixteen years ago.  I was born and lived in Co Down till I was eighteen.  I went to university in Coleraine eighty miles away from home and remained there to get married and rear my children.  In those days I might as well have been moving to another country.  God led us to live return to Co Down.  This scripture spoke to us,

“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’ (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭6‬:‭16‬ NIV)

Today, St Patrick’s Day, I am savoimageuring the blessing of living along the shore of Strangford Lough.  There is a small bay below our house where gulls play about on the water.  The water is still. A lone heron stands on a stone for long periods of time looking out for food.  A flock of Brent Geese fly in low over the water.  They come to get some fresh water from a stream nearby that flows into the lough.  My soul is at rest.

I am amazed that these Brent Geese’ only winter habitat is along the shores of Strangford Lough.  Thousands land here after a long journey from Northern Canada in September.  Most are to be seen along the sunny side of the Lough.  They feed on Eel Grass and return in April to the tundra to have their young.  The Brent Geese link me to the past.  For generations  they migrated here.  Their generations back would have been here when St Patrick arrived as a migrant.

In the fifth century St Patrick came to these shores.  The main means of transport in those days was by boat.  A boat could access inland by river.  He came to Ireland answering the call of God to go as a missionary.  He would have sailed up the entrance to Strangford Lough and up the Quoile river.  It is recorded that he settled in Saul near the river.

The tourist board of Northern Ireland has mapped out the St Patrick’s trail which helps visitors travel to areas where early Christians settled.  I have lived in three sites that are along this trail.  I lived in. Saul St,  Downpatrick for sixteen years,  one year in Bright, and now in Portaferry.  I can imagine those early Christians coming ashore like the Brent Geese to get some fresh water after their sea journey.  They could have built a shelter and fished from the sea that was teeming with fish in those early days.  No pollution or over fishing then.  They may have even built a settlement on this land where we now live.

St Patrick’s writings mention scriptures, dreams, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.  It is interesting that the Christian denominations, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Catholic all look to St Patrick as their patron in Ireland.  At least we are united in the heritage St Patrick left us.

In Ireland we are blessed to have a Christian heritage for 1500 years.  Ireland is known as the Land of Saints and Scholars.  Many missionarys travelled from these shores into Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and the Americas.  God is calling the Irish men and women to remember the God of their forefathers. I celebrate St Patrick today, not with green beer, leprechauns, or parades, but by being quiet on this ancient site remembering the God of St Patrick.  He is the same God I worship, 1500 years later.  Praise Him.

Hope in British Columbia, Canada is a Special Place for Me.

I was in Vancouver recently.  As we drove along the highways in Vancouver I saw the sign for Hope on every overhead signpost.  I thought it must be a large city up country.  But it is a small town in the Fraser Valley, but if one wants to drive east in BC you will pass through Hope.  As you drive towards Hope there are magnificent views of the mountains and the river Fraser.

In October 2008 Brendan and I were speaking at a conference in BC. imageCanada.  On the Sunday afternoon we were driving back to Vancouver along the Fraser Valley.  We stopped for a coffee break in this town called Hope.  The cafe was known for home cooked pies.  Our host said you can get mile high pie here!  I wondered what he meant.  In the display cabinet was a variety of home baked pies, blueberry, chocolate, banana, summer fruits, apple, lemon meringue and rhubarb.

I chose the biggest, the lemon meringue with a good helping of cream.  It was the biggest lemon meringue I have ever seen.  Lemon meringue is my favourite.  In Canada the vans  and the trucks, the rivers, the mountains, the highways and the bridges are big.

Seven years ago I would have been bleeding from my colon and hoping it would go away.  Over the next few years I got hopeless for my future.  I was slowly dying.  Until in 2010 I could not hide the bleeding any longer.  I was getting weaker.  I was in despair.  I was unhappy, in distress, lost hope, lost heart, discouraged, I threw in the towel.   I resigned myself that things would not get any better.  I felt lonely and rejected, even though I had my family around me.  I was depressed and felt misunderstood.

Life was going on around me.  I felt left behind.  My children were doing well and leaving home.  My home was getting empty and so was my heart.  My husband was busy with his work.  I didn’t feel I was needed any longer.   Everyone seemed to think mum will be around forever.  I had been strong for everyone one else, but now my strength was failing.  What was there for me to do when all the children had left?   I was hopeless.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (‭Proverbs‬ ‭13‬:‭12‬ NIV)

Over the next four months I went through treatment the doctors ordered and my family and many people in the body of Christ prayed for me.   God healed me of 4th stage cancer.  I am alive to tell others that God heals today.  He is not a God far away who does not care.  He is near to help us when we cry to him.  My hope was gone but God in his faithfulness helped me.

Today, nearly seven years later we were back in Hope.  I asked the driver, “Did you know where the cafe is where I can get coffee and “Mile High Pie?”  Hope is a small town.  We found the cafe easily enough, off the main highway.  I checked it out, and yes it was the same place.  The cabinet was full of fresh sweet pies.  I looked them over and found the lemon meringue!  I enjoyed a coffee and pie at ten o’clock in the morning!  Other customers were looking at me.  In Canada people don’t eat sweet pie till the afternoon.

In the seven years since I was in the town of Hope I have gone through the valley of death.  God has brought me through the other side because I grabbed hold of hope in the goodness of God to heal me.  I celebrated my hope being restored as I ate the Mile High Pie in the town of Hope.

What is the Definition of Love.

I was impacked by this story.  A mother had given birth to twins, a boy and a girl prematurely.  There is always a risk a baby will not make it when born prematurely.  This was so with the little boy.  The doctor gave the “dead” baby into the mothers arms and left her alone with her husband.  The mother laid the baby on her heart, the father put his arms around him keeping him warm with their body heat.  The mother spoke to her baby and told him how much he was loved and about all his extended family that he belonged to.  She continued speaking lovingly and tenderly.  The baby began to breathe and move.  The doctor said “No, he is dead.”  But the little boy lived and is now a healthy five year old.  There was life in the words the mother spoke over her lifeless child.  As we show love and speak love it brings life.  This speaks to me of a saying that love is stronger than death.
This mother and father expressed their love through touch.  The baby was held on the mother’s body close to her heart.  It was a familiar sound to him, as he would have heard it in the security of his mother’s womb.  The touch of the father’s hands brought warmth and security.

When our children were born the person who held them after the nurse was their daddy.  He welcomed them with his voice and strong hands holding their small bodies.  There was someone strong who was going to look after them.  I had carried them for nine months but when they were born from the safety of the womb, into the big world, their daddy was there to hold them and take away any fear.

Love takes away fear.  Love takes away selfishness.  Love lays down ones life for the other.  Love involves sacrifice.  Love is not self seeking.  Love never fails.  Love is patient.   Love is kind.  Love is not jealous.  Love forgives wrong.

I try to be a loving person. I often fail. But because I experienced God’s love when he reached down and healed me of Cancer I am able to love more than before.